UN mission revives consultation among parties in Libya for holding delayed national elections 

UNSMIL head Abdoulaye Bathily has been meeting with Libya’s rival political and military leaders in order to find a consensus on holding elections, with emphasis on the expulsion of all foreign mercenaries from the war-torn country

February 08, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
UNSMIL Libya talks
UN envoy to Libya and head of its Support Mission (UNSMIL) in the country, Abdoulaye Bathily (L), with Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA). (Photo: Abdoulaye Bathily/Twitter)

UN envoy to Libya and head of its Support Mission (UNSMIL) in the country, Abdoulaye Bathily, met with Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), in Benghazi on Tuesday, January 7, as a part of his renewed attempts to restart the peace process in the country and establish a consensus around the constitutional framework. 

“To discuss the political, security, and social situation in Libya,” Bathily claimed, Haftar agreed that “all parties engage constructively and without delay to establish a constitutional framework to facilitate free and fair and transparent elections [in Libya] in 2023.” Bathily added that they also discussed the need to withdraw all foreign mercenaries, forces, and fighters from the country for “sustainable peace and stability in Libya.” 

The need to unify political and military institutions in the country was also underlined in the talks, Bathily said. 

Haftar has been leading the LNA, rival of the erstwhile Government of National Accord (GNA) set up in Libya. Haftar had led an attack on the capital Tripoli in 2019–20 before the UN-led peace process was able to establish a ceasefire in October 2020, which paved the way for the establishment of an interim government under the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). 

The LPDF, however, broke up in December 2021 following the failure of the interim government led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibah to conduct the national elections that month, as mandated during the government’s inception in February 2021. Disagreements over the electoral law enacted by the House of Representative as well as Dbeibah’s candidature were the major reasons for the failure of the peace process. Since then, Libya has been ruled by two rival administrations, which have occasionally resorted to military force to assert their power. 

Fresh round of meetings

Since his appointment in September last year, Bathily has conducted a series of meetings with the rival groups in the country. Recently he chaired a meeting of Libya’s 5+5 Joint Military Committee (JMC) in Cairo, Egypt. That meeting was also attended by the representatives from Sudan, Chad, and Niger. It discussed the continuation of the ceasefire in Libya and ways to expel foreign mercenaries from the country. 

The 5+5 JMC was devised as an institution to ensure some coordination between the rival leadership of the country’s divided military during the UN-led peace process. 

Bathily has stated that the objective of his consultations with the rival parties is to devise a process for holding national elections by the end of this year. 

On February 27, Bathily is expected to brief the UN Security Council (UNSC) about his attempts to secure peace in Libya. 

UNSMIL and Bathily’s present one-year term are set to expire on October 31. 

A monthly forecast for February published by the UNSC claims that “the protracted political stalemate” between the government of National Unity led by Dbeibah and the House of Representative-backed government led by Fathi Bashagha “contributes to the country’s political, economic and security instability.” 

Bathily was also successful in organizing a meeting between the speaker of the House of Representative Aguila Saleh and President of the High State Council Khaled Misri in Cairo on January 5. It was this meeting between the two heads backing the rival administrations in Tripoli and Sirte, respectively, that revived the possibility of a settlement. 

The High State Council is an advisory body formed during the UN-led peace process in Libya in 2015. Though the talks later failed, the council has remained in existence and advises what was the erstwhile Government of National Accord based in Tripoli.